'Why can't I have a baby on my own?'

At 37 and single, Lulu Le Vay was shocked she may not be able to carry a baby. But when she decided to investigate surrogacy, she discovered that only stable couples need apply

One evening last September I was sitting in my consultant's office after a checkup following the fifth surgery on my uterus, when he dropped the bombshell: due to the unlikelihood that my womb would be able to sustain a pregnancy, surrogacy might be a fertility option I would need to consider, if I wanted a child.

It was, strangely, a comical moment. "What?" I remember saying, my cheeks going as white as his collar. "This can't be happening," I protested, giggling. "Things like this happen to Sarah Jessica Parker, not me!" I didn't cry. I went home, chain-smoked a few fags, and went to bed feeling shocked and void of emotion. When I woke up the next day, this alien idea that had been presented to me hovered over me in the abstract ether. Over the following few weeks, as much as it sat on my shoulder pecking at my thoughts, I refused to let it in as something real – as something I would seriously, at some point, have to consider.

Eventually, curiosity got the better of me and I hit Google and contacted some surrogacy support agencies. Within a couple of hours any decision-making process on my part had been obliterated. There it was, in black and white: "I am afraid that, as a single person, surrogacy in the UK is not an option for you. This is because a parental order – the legal device by which you would become the legally named parent of a child born through surrogacy – is only open to couples in a long-term stable relationship." From an innocent investigation of an area I knew little about, the shock felt like a punch in the stomach.

This wasn't supposed to be how my life was going to turn out. Since my early twenties I'd had it all mapped out. Throw myself passionately into my career and have as much fun as possible – the things I was good at – and the family stuff could be put off until later. Pah! what's the rush? But a decade later the trouble started: fibroids (non-cancerous tumours in the uterus); a ruptured ovarian cyst; more fibroids (lots more). By January 2008, aged 37, I'd had three surgeries which had left me with some knock-out scars, emotionally and physically. Recovery from an operation to remove multiple fibroids that January was tough. Blood transfusions resulted in severe anaemia, as well as a bout of E. coli, which the hospital kindly packed me off home with. The C-section-style wound opened and took months to heal.

By the summer, just when my life was back on track – great job, smashing bloke – the pain and the haemorrhaging dominated my life to such an unbearable degree that I had no choice but to undergo uterine artery embolisation, a new-ish procedure which cuts off blood supply to the tumours by pumping radiation particles into the uterus. The pain that followed was untouchable, not even by morphine. I was in fake labour for 12 hours, my lowest life-point to date. Within days the bleeding disappeared – as did the boyfriend – and I became depressed.

More than a year later, in September last year, I was back in hospital with what I might call the nuclear fallout. The scar tissue had caused havoc. My fallopian tubes had twisted around the uterus, and one was badly infected and swollen. The organs had started sticking together and there was a mountainous ovarian cyst. This mess left me with permanently blocked tubes, a severely damaged uterus, and one sympathetic consultant trying to give me a glimmer of hope for the future of my fertility: it seemed that surrogacy might well be my only option. But not as the law currently stands, I found.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act of 1990 underwent a major overhaul in 2008, and single women were given the right to receive IVF treatment with donor sperm. And as of last month unmarried and same-sex couples can apply for a parental order for a child delivered by a surrogate. This order formally transfers parenthood from the surrogate mother. Yet single persons seeking to become parents through surrogacy have been deliberately excluded from this measure.

"We called for an amendment to the HFE Bill, while it was being debated in Parliament in 2008, which would have allowed single people to obtain a parental order," says Louisa Ghevaert, a leading expert in surrogacy and fertility law and a founding partner of the law firm Gamble and Ghevaert. "This is a ticking time bomb. The law is discriminating against single people, and to make matters worse, it is completely inconsistent with other parenting laws. A single person can legally go to an IVF clinic and conceive with donated sperm. Current laws should be updated to allow single people to become parents though surrogacy."

Peter Bowen-Simpkins, medical director of the London Women's Clinic concurs: "I am astounded to learn that single people are barred from applying for a parental order. The reasons for surrogacy are usually congenital malformations, or surgery that has removed the womb or rendered it no longer able to bear a pregnancy. Neither of these reasons is the fault of the woman, and it seems gross discrimination, especially when we are offering single women donor insemination or IVF."

We are living in a society in which the family comes in all colours, shapes and sizes. Gay mums and dads, Brangelina's rainbow family, Madonna's little Africa, and people like Sarah Jessica Parker creating a family with the help of a surrogate. Families are being built in more contemporary ways, and single parents play a growing role in this mix.

"I myself am a single parent following divorce, and there are plenty of us out there doing a great job," continues Ghevaert. "It is unfair for people with health problems, or those on a difficult fertility journey, to then be denied the option of a parental order just because they are single. It makes no sense."

Surrogacy is complex and expensive, and the international laws surrounding it are riddled with contradictions. With the sprawling World Wide Web, couples are leaping unprepared into other territories to bag their surrogate baby, which can lead not only to pressure and the breakup of their own relationships but may also put the well-being of the child in jeopardy.

In 2008, a Japanese couple used a surrogate mother in India. The intense pressure led to the couple divorcing after the baby was conceived, leaving the child abandoned in a hospital in Western Rajasthan. Under Indian law, single men of foreign origin are not able to apply for a parental order.

The SJP story may have sparked public awareness, as the demand for surrogacy is on the rise. But laws need to be in place with equal rights for all people who have a desire to pursue this avenue, and also with protection in place to support the well-being of children born from a surrogacy arrangement.

I'm still unsure what my fertility outcome will be, as I undergo a final round of treatment. But I do know that the surrogacy path is not for me. I may well look into adoption, if and when it feels right. This is a decision not steered by the current law – surrogacy is just not instinctively right for me. But having a choice would've been nice.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Extras
indybest
Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Saunders stars as Miss Windsor, Dennis's hysterical French teacher
filmJennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Support Worker

    £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A rewarding opportunity to work with an easy-...

    Recruitment Genius: National Sales Account Executive

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company leads the market i...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Manager - Cyber Security

    £30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Manager for Cyber Secur...

    Ashdown Group: Service Desk Analyst - Application Support - Central London

    £30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Service Desk Analyst (App...

    Day In a Page

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    10 best high-end laptops

    10 best high-end laptops

    From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
    Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum